Skinned Knuckles and Sleepless Nights!
Roberta's middle chainring was worn and needed replacing. This seemed like the sort of basic job I should be able to do myself but when I phoned to order a new ring I was told that it wouldn't be possible without removing the crank as the middle ring bolts on from behind. I didn't want to remove the crank, in fact this is almost a taboo subject. I once had problems with my bottom bracket and asked a clubmate, a classic old time cyclist who had once worked in a bike shop, to have a look at it for me. It took him two hours to make a tool to take the dustcap off the crank but he was still unable to remove the crank itself. I concluded that my chainset was an obscure item that could only be removed by the best equipped bike shop, certainly not by me. Keith Edwards however, assured me that it was perfectly possible to do it without removing the crank and I decided to give it a try.
I set about this methodically. First I took a photo in case I couldn't remember how it all fitted together. I got some old ice cream tubs to collect the bits and wrote little labels to put in plastic bags describing what each bit was and where it went. I didn't have a new chainring at this stage – I wanted to see if I could get the old one off first. The outer ring came off easily although I removed large chunks of skin from my knuckles as I caught them on the chainring teeth with every turn of the allen key. Note to self – wear gloves when working near to sharp teeth!
I then undid the bolts from the other side. No problem! I now had a little collection of bolts and spacers. Cleaned everything up, looking good. Dennis wandered in and remarked 'You should leave that to the experts'.
'Its not rocket science' I replied haughtily. 'No one is born knowing how to fix bikes'. But this was all bravado. I was overcome with waves of panic. What had I done? I was never going to get all this back together. Why hadn't I left well alone? I'd already forgotten how it went together. Beautiful weather and now my best bike was in bits and unrideable. What had I done? I remembered I had the instructions for assembling the chainset. Looking at that just made me feel worse!
I was now breaking out into a cold sweat! I posted anxious appeals for help to Keith Edwards and on the CTC forum for good measure, and checked every half hour or so for replies. I fretted all evening and then lay awake pondering my folly until I eventually fell asleep only to wake up at 6.15 still worrying. This was ridiculous! I orderd a new ring from dotbike and then phoned them for advice. I've never used them before but the guy I spoke to was great, laughing at my panic and telling me that everyone felt like that the first time they took one to bits. He assured me that it was not a difficult job, just a bit fiddly. I'd also been doing some research into those cranks. They had self extracting bolts. Did this mean what I thought it did? Indeed so – no special tools required, no need to remove the dustcap. That was a great discovery, cranks hold no terror for me any more!
Panic over! Keith continued to send helpful advice, I particularly liked his idea of using bag ties to hold it all together while I got the bolts in. The new chainring had arrived when I returned from riding Why? this morning and so I set to work.
I first attached the spacers to the inner ring with bag ties. I then did the same with those for the middle ring and attached the ring to the spider. This was great as I could now see exactly how it went together. I could also see that I'd attached the spacers to the wrong side of the inner ring. Duh! I retied them in the right place but this didn't seem too successful and eventually I just fitted them one at a time. It was a bit fiddly but it was a great sensation when I got it all lined up right and the bolt screwed in. Once I'd got one I just needed to repeat the process 4 more times and I was in business. The outer ring went on easily, I was able to hold the top hat nuts (female connectors the man from Dotbike said) with my finger to stop them spinning. Then it was just a matter of tightening it all up as tight as I could get it. The great advantage of being female is you don't need to worry about stripping the threads! I learnt from my mistakes and wore gloves so I didn't strip my knuckles either!
Job done. What was all the fuss about?? I just needed to fit a new chain, a job I've done many times, then a quick test ride to make sure all was well. It was. I learnt a lot fom doing this and am very grateful to Keith for his advice and encouragement. I'll just try not to get into such a flap next time I take anything to bits!